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Letters and Homilies

On the Created Order: Pastoral Letter on Laudato Si, the encyclical of Pope Francis on the care of ‘our common home’

To be read at Mass in all the churches and chapels of the Diocese on the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, 19th July 2015

On the Created Order

My dear brothers and sisters,

This summer Pope Francis has addressed a Letter to all of humanity on the care of what he calls “our common home,” the earth.  Pope Francis’ message is, like so much of his teaching and preaching, a call to conversion.  The Holy Father invites everyone to be conscious we are part of God’s created order.  It is a call especially addressed to the consumerist mentalities of wealthy societies like our own;  and it challenges our complacencies and assumptions about human progress.  Pope Francis recognises the present consensus amongst scientists that we are witnessing climate change on earth with implications for all humanity, especially for the poorest members of the human family.  However, the Pope is not merely echoing a theory or following a trend.  His appeal is based on the firm foundation of what both faith and reason disclose:  the created order to which we all belong.

Some commentators are surprised that the Pope sees the killing of the unborn; the discarding of the elderly and theories by which man seeks to justify even the manipulation of his own nature, as all part of the ecological crisis. (Cf LS n.155)  Yet he does so precisely because his appeal for an “ecological conversion” is based firmly on faith in the Creator and the order of creation which we will shortly stand to affirm in the words: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”

 

Hartford resized

 

Pope Francis uses a hymn composed by Saint Francis of Assisi which speaks of how all creatures exist in relationship to each other.  This awareness allowed the great Saint of Assisi to sing of the earth, the seas and rivers as related to us as a sister, a brother, a mother (Cf. LS n.11).  This ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ leads Pope Francis to echo the beautiful words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “God wills the interdependence of all creatures.  The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow:  the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient.  Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other” (LS 86/CCC 340).  That harmonious order of creation was disturbed by the fall of humanity, the original sin of our first parents.  However, the plan and purpose of our Creator, obscured by human sin, is now restored by Christ in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

The Holy Father’s message helps us reflect deeply on the doctrine of Creation, and apply its practical implications to the many challenges facing humanity.  In this short letter, read at Sunday Mass, it is not possible to summarise all 180 pages of the Holy Father’s letter.  Suffice to say that Pope Francis insists that the ecological challenges of our time can never be effectively addressed unless humanity is ready to reflect upon the purpose of God our Creator.  “Unless we struggle with these deeper issues,” writes Pope Francis, “I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results” (LS n. 160).  It is, Pope Francis insists, because we have lost the sense of being creatures that we have failed in our God-given responsibility to care for the earth;  have abused other creatures;  and are now faced with our own scientific and economic advances turning against us (cf. LS 160).

Today I wish to invite you to reflect with Pope Francis on our place in the splendour of God’s created order.  “Sunday …,” Pope Francis writes, “is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world … and so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds its light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and for the poor.” (LS n. 237).  It is here in the Holy Eucharist that “all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation” declares Pope Francis.  And earth and heaven are joined “when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures … Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God” (LS n. 236).  In this Eucharistic light, may we be able to see all of creation anew and always say, in the words of the title of Pope Francis’s Letter: “Praise be to you, O Lord.”

With my prayer for you all in these summer weeks,

+ Mark

Bishop of Shrewsbury

 

(Photo by Simon Caldwell)